A few days ago, I went up in the elevator with my little girl. Since I always make sure to follow the rules, it is clear to me that there is no way that one of my girls will get on the elevator alone until the age of 14. The elevator slowly closed, then began to go up. My daughter, despite my pleas, clicked on one unnecessary floor. In the process, the numbers indicating the floor we are on changed. I looked again at the warning signs in the elevator, such as the maximum weight, the instructions for what to do in the event of a malfunction (why the hell do we have to pay 25 NIS a month for the elevator line?), the red sticker that warns not to touch the elevator doors, that for some reason someone in the building’s elevator company decided Carelessly stick to the elevator doors.
And then it happened. The elevator stopped after a few seconds, which seemed like an eternity. The door opened into an empty hall, and we stepped out. The last thing I remember from that moment before they entered the house is that the elevator door closed a few meters behind us, resting for the next tenant to use it. That’s it, we got home without anything interesting happening. I wish it were that simple in horror movies.
Lift Your Fears: Horror Movies About Elevators
The truth is that regardless of the very justified safety guidelines, going up in the elevator is one of the most routine and essential actions there is. Almost everyone performs it at least several times a day without it ending abnormally (as in the first paragraph of the text you read). Not everything is safe in elevators – we have witnessed several horrific cases in recent years that ended in drowning, falling, or suffocation. As rare as they may be, these are horrible cases to which one cannot remain indifferent. It’s hard to think of a more horrible death than being stuck in an elevator with the oxygen slowly running out.
Horror movies traditionally take this to the extreme, showing us exactly what can happen when an elevator houses serial killers, the devil himself, a bomb, demons, and other surprises. These movies usually take place in a limited number of locations, and sometimes even just in the elevator itself, which means there is, on the one hand, a certain simplicity to produce them. It is possible to create tension and even horror with a minimal number of locations and characters.
The films can explore deaths related to the same fear of elevators – such as claustrophobia, paranoia, and isolation – and pit the protagonists against many threats. A large part of the tense structure of these films is related to the question that we don’t know who is behind the horrors in the elevator; in other words, these movies can belong to the “Woodoneit” subgenre, one of my favorites.
The problem is to make something outstanding out of this whole story. There is a technical difficulty in conveying the fear and terror of being stuck in an elevator, unable to move or move. Another problem, as expressed quite reflexively in the movie “The Elevator Game,” which we will get to later, is to do something interesting for an hour and a half and not just film “people going up and down the elevator for 20 minutes”. Some films solve this with subplots, for example, of investigators and police officers who try to understand what is happening inside the elevator, or flashbacks that explain what brought the people in the elevator into this situation.
The room for maneuvering here is quite limited, and you have to be creative in terms of jump scares, camera angles, lighting, effects, and more to create a truly successful horror. When you don’t do this, the films can be predictable, loaded with clichés and primarily unsuccessful. It seems a bit difficult to attract viewers to them – because, let’s face it, the average horror fan may very well prefer movies that, on paper, are more attractive than movies.
Horror Movies About Elevators
In the world of horror, not surprisingly, elevators have also been given a place of honor throughout history. After all, horror movies express our fears, more or less common, and also fear of elevators – which may combine several other worries, such as fear of heights, closed places, or loss of control – is included in this list. Along with some masterful elevator scenes, which we will address soon in a separate review, some films took the fear of elevators a few steps further, with a plot in which the elevator is one of the leading players – and sometimes the villain.
De Lift (1983)
We start our review of horror movies about elevators in the Netherlands with a film written and directed by a filmmaker named Dick Maas. “De Lift” (“The Lift”), which received positive reviews, presents the story of an elevator technician who arrives at a building in Amsterdam to investigate a strange problem: the elevators in it kill those who use them, and sometimes even those who just walk by them. With the help of an energetic journalist, he begins to investigate the issue and discovers all kinds of conspiracies related to artificial intelligence that have gone out of control.
“The Elevator” is considered one of the best Dutch horror films of the 80s, partly due to the plot, the dialogues, the acting, the kills, the effects, and everything that moves here (including the elevators). On the other hand, I’m not sure how many Dutch horror movies from the 80s you’ve seen, so maybe this statement sounds pretty random to you.
“Down” waswritten by Dick Maas and received terrible reviews. It presents the story of an elevator technician (James Marshall) who arrives at a building in New York to investigate a strange problem: the elevators in it kill those who use them and sometimes even those who just pass by them. With the help of an energetic journalist (Naomi Watts, right before her rise to stardom after the terrific “Mulholland Drive”), he investigates the issue and discovers all kinds of conspiracies related to artificial intelligence that have gone out of control.
If you haven’t realized by now, “Down” is a remake of the same Dutch film by the same director. Unfortunately, in my opinion, and most reviews, almost nothing worked in this movie. The critics pretty much killed the plot, the dialogues, the acting, the kills, the effects, and everything that moves here (including the elevators). Nevertheless, the film has some importance. When today artificial intelligence takes over our lives and may even endanger them, Mas’s films were almost prophetic, showing what can happen when we rely on technology entirely or when it gets into the wrong hands.
Remember when people told you not to use the elevator if there was a possibility of a power outage? So the psychological horror thriller “Blackout,” based on a novel by the Italian author Gianluca Morozzi (with many changes between the book and the script), explains why.
“Blackout” is a psychological thriller film directed by Rigoberto Castañeda and starring Amber Tamblyn, Aidan Gillen, Armie Hammer, and Katie Stuart. The film follows three strangers who are trapped in an elevator during a power outage and discover that one of them is a sadistic serial killer. As they wait for help, they start to reveal their secrets and motives. They discover that there is someone among them who will not let them survive.
Blackout received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the actors but criticized the plot holes, the gore, and the lack of originality. The film has a rating of 5/10 on IMDb and 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. It grossed $296,411 in Russia but was not a box office success elsewhere.
If you thought being stuck in an elevator with your annoying neighbor was terrible, think again: it could be worse. What would happen, for example, if you were stuck in an elevator in an office building in Philadelphia with four other people and found out that one of you was the devil himself? And that devil will kill you, one after the other, in creative and cruel ways?
This exciting idea for such elevator horror movie is the basis of a short story written by none other than director M. Nate Shymelan (“The Sixth Sense,” “Sings,” “Unbreakable,” “The Visit” and more), which was influenced by Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Was None” – also known as “Ten Little Niggers” – which deals with a series of murders on a small island and the attempts of who is behind them. Shymelan’s story was adapted into a screenplay by Brian Nelson (“30 Days of Night” and “Hard Candy”) and directed by John Eric Dowdle, who is responsible, among other things, for the found footage film “The Poughkeepsie Tapes,” “Quarantine” (the American novelty to the Spanish masterpiece “REC”) and the intriguing “As Above, So Below.” These names know the job, and we get a fun and excellent horror thriller that will keep you glued to your seat, trying to guess who the devil is.
Indeed, “Devil” is not a perefect horror elevator more – there was room, for example, for improvements at the level of the script, or even for adding volume to this too short film. But if you have to choose one horror film about elevators, this might very well be your first choice. It was also reasonably successful at the box office with about 63 million dollars grossings for a budget of 10 million.
So, after getting stuck with the devil and a serial killer in an elevator, another movie shows who you wouldn’t want to be in an elevator with when you’re stuck up there. Or rather: what wouldn’t you like? “Elevator” takes place on the 49th floor of a Wall Street, New York building. Nine strangers- some of them stereotypical characters – a security man, a TV reporter and her partner, a comedian, a pregnant woman, a widow, and an annoying granddaughter – get stuck in an elevator. The bigger problem is that after one or the other dies, they discover they have a bomb on them. From here begins a journey against time, in which the gang tries to escape the terrible situation before time runs out and discovers that the way there passes through many insults, fights, and arguments, some of them stereotypical or racist.
The truth is that “Elevator” is less of a horror film than its evil twin above, “Devil.” We can say it has elements of horror but also suspense and even black comedy. It’s a cute little movie, with a reasonably minimal budget and without too well-known actors, that can give you something like an hour and twenty of your life.
Elevator Game (2023)
You know that part where you’re in an elevator with a little boy (or my two little girls), and they decide to push all the buttons in the elevator because it’s cool? Every time this happens, I look suspiciously at the opening doors of the elevator, hoping there won’t be a nervous neighbor there that I’ll have to explain to him why we pressed all the elevator buttons. It could very well be that this is more or less the experience that stood against whoever is responsible for the network phenomenon of the “Elevator Game,” which entered the world something like a decade ago and now has its movie.
Anyway, the story is like this. A group of “streamers” who investigate supernatural phenomena and things like that find themselves in a difficult situation: the main sponsor threatens to stop funding. With the help of a mysterious guy whose motives will be revealed later, they decide to get to the building to investigate a local legend about a girl who disappeared after playing the “elevator game”: a strange game where you have to press the buttons in the elevator in a particular order, which ends on the fifth floor.
On the fifth floor, if you do everything right, close your eyes and mouth, or something like that, you might meet “The Fifth Floor Woman” or something like that, and she will stand behind you. Then, when you leave the elevator on the first floor, you’ll reach the red world or something like that (maybe beacuse eleva). Anyway, the gang quickly discovers something behind this internet legend, and we get some jump scares, a monster that doesn’t really manage to scare, the deaths of annoying teenagers while looking at their phones, and more.
“Elevator Game” sounds interesting on paper, and its poster is cool too. The rules of the game underlying the plot sound random, but that’s how it is with internet urban legends. The assumption is that we don’t have to understand the starting point of the film’s plot to enjoy it. In “Talk To Me,” for example, the lack of explanation of the background story didn’t hurt the final result. Here, it’s different. Although the opening scene is solid, the film loses momentum and enters the world of horror clichés. This problem has already happened in other movies based on Internet urban legends, such as the terrible “Slenderman” or the equally disappointing “Grimcutty” about an Internet meme gone out of control.
The scare scenes of “Elevator Game” are anything but original: only a few of them work or at least fall into the “so bad or predictable it’s fun” category. The bigger problem, in our opinion, is that they fail to build an atmosphere of tension in the rather long elevator scenes, so that in large part of the film, we get people going up and down the elevator without a sense of fear, and some routine horror scenes afterward. The origin story of “The Woman on the Fifth Floor” is not convincing or related to anything, and neither are the characters’ revelations: for example, an unexplained section with the “Elevator Song.”
Reviews of “Elevator Game” are almost overwhelmingly negative, with a score of 4.2 out of 10 on IMDB, or only 33% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. We saw it too, and as we said, we didn’t like it. Among the main problems in this movie are the horrible acting of a large part of the actors (why do YouTubers’ characters always have to be annoying? So that there will be negative talkbacks that will bring traffic?), the childish dialogues, but mainly the fact that the movie is quite dull and just not exciting or scary. I’m not sure that “The Elevator Game” is such a disaster, but it is probably one of the least good on this list of horror movies about elevators.